Dems' Convention Unity Script Marred by DNC Emails

Dems' Convention Unity Script Marred by DNC Emails
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PHILADELPHIA – After watching Donald Trump’s messy GOP convention in Cleveland last week, Democrats imagined their party would come together in the city of brotherly love and blanket the airwaves with harmony and inclusiveness.

That may yet happen at the end of the week, when Hillary Clinton makes history as the first woman to win a major political party nomination to be president, but what’s clear at the outset is that intraparty upheavals are a bipartisan affliction.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned Sunday after being caught in black and white rooting for Clinton over challenger Bernie Sanders in private DNC emails hacked by unknown actors and published by Wikileaks last week.

“Damn liar” is how Schultz referred to Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, during a phase of the primary contest in which she had repeatedly and publicly denied any preferential DNC treatment for the former secretary of state’s bid to become the nominee. Members of Schultz’s staff had exchanged emails discussing whether strategically placed insinuations that Sanders is an atheist, rather than an adherent of Judaism, might boost Clinton’s odds with primary voters in some states.  

The email revelations, which infuriated but did not surprise Sanders and his supporters, threaten to undercut the Clinton campaign team’s carefully negotiated peace-making with Sanders, which resulted in platform concessions and agreement to form a commission to study potential reforms to the Democrats’ system of superdelegates.

Awkwardly, Monday’s messaging theme is “United together.”

Worried that Schultz’s presence could spark delegate booing during prime-time television coverage, party insiders opted to replace the congresswoman from Florida as head of the DNC. Schultz’s role is to be filled by DNC Acting Chairwoman Donna Brazile.

President Obama, Sanders and his spokesmen issued statements Sunday aimed at easing tensions as swiftly as possible. But Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, without citing evidence, raised eyebrows with a claim that the emails were hacked and funneled to Wikileaks by the Russian government, which he said seeks to help elect Trump.

“It’s been reported on in the press that the hackers that got into the DNC are very likely to be working in coordination with Russia,” Mook told CNN without citing specific reporting, “and again I think if the Russians in fact have these emails, I don’t think it’s very coincidental that they are being released at this time to create maximum damage on Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.”

The Republican nominee spent part of his Sunday fanning his adversaries’ brush fires. “The Democrats are in total meltdown,” Trump tweeted, “but the biased media will say how great they are doing! E-mails say the rigged system is alive & well!”

Trump, who used part of his 75-minute acceptance speech in Ohio Thursday to encourage Sanders’ supporters to reject Clinton and vote for him, also tweeted that the senator’s backers are not inclined to let “Crooked Hillary off the hook.”

The DNC’s rifts, and perhaps more additional email disclosures ahead, could aid Trump’s chances in November, as well as boost the arguments of GOP candidates in down-ballot races, Democratic insiders said. They had crafted a convention program intended to display harmonious and upbeat contrasts on policy and persona when compared with Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Sanders, who will speak to the convention Monday night, said unequivocally in interviews that he wants Clinton to become president. “The immediate focus has got to be that a disastrous candidate like Donald Trump cannot be elected,” he told CNN in an interview Sunday.

Also expected to speak Monday are Michelle Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Clinton wants Americans to come away from her convention with facts and information to counter the pummeling she sustained in Cleveland last week, when GOP delegates chanted, “Lock her up!” and some Republicans said the former top diplomat should be hung, imprisoned or otherwise punished because of her State Department email controversies and the international security and terrorism challenges that conservatives blame on President Obama and his administration.

The Democratic convention will be something of a talkfest featuring heavy hitters, including officials viewed as “insiders” by some voters.

President Clinton, known for his convention speeches over the years, is scheduled to address the delegates Tuesday night when the focus is on children and families and pocketbook issues. A roll call of the states that evening will secure the former first lady’s nomination. On Wednesday, President Obama and Vice President Biden will describe what they believe is at stake in November and vouch for Hillary Clinton’s “experience and steadiness.” Vice presidential running mate Tim Kaine, the junior senator from Virginia picked Friday to share the Clinton ticket, will address the largest television audience of his career this week. On Thursday, Chelsea Clinton will introduce her mother before the former New York senator makes history by accepting her party’s nomination, a prize she failed to capture in 2008.

In between, audiences will hear testimonials from dozens of elected officials, some former Cabinet secretaries, men and women with military track records who support Clinton’s candidacy, as well as celebrities and friends. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who weighed a run for president, will endorse Clinton.

The Democratic nominee-in-waiting will host an organizing event in Charlotte on Monday, as the convention gets underway.

Trump will campaign Monday in Roanoke, Va., and Winston-Salem, N.C., and will visit Scranton, Pa. – Biden’s hometown -- on Wednesday, during the Democratic convention.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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